FAA History: 1984

Thursday, January 12, 1984:The Federal Aviation Administration awarded a contract to Hazeltine Corporation for 178 Microwave Landing Systems (MLSs). (See January 28, 1982, and May 20, 1987.)
Saturday, February 4, 1984:FAA transferred the aviation education program from the Office of Aviation Policy and Plans to the Office of Public Affairs. Later, the program was reassigned to the Office of Training and Higher Education, which was under the Assistant Administrator for Human Resource Management, effective October 4, 1992.
Monday, February 6, 1984:FAA conducted an intensive inspection of Continental Airlines, lasting through March 9. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) was on strike against Continental (see September 24, 1983), and accused it of unsafe practices. The FAA report cited discrepancies but concluded that overall safety was adequate. (Two members of the inspection team later charged that higher officials had altered their report to make it more favorable to the airline; however, an FBI investigation found no basis to prosecute for impropriety.) In June 1984 congressional hearings, ALPA charged that FAA was covering up safety violations by Continental, while FAA testified that the airline was safe. (See March 18, 1985.)
Monday, February 13, 1984:In a speech to the National Press Club, Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole outlined an agenda for aviation that included a safety review such as she had ordered for the other transportation modes. Dole announced that FAA would step up surveillance of airlines and other elements of aviation (see March 4, 1984), and that the agency’s inspector workforce would be increased by 25 percent. She also stated that she had recommended Donald D. Engen as FAA’s next Administrator (see April 10, 1984).
Thursday, March 1, 1984:Braniff resumed commercial flights. Now known as Braniff, Inc., the company operated on a smaller scale than before its suspension of flights (see May 12, 1982). To assist the airline’s recovery, FAA allocated it landing reservations at five airports where operations were limited by the high density rule and/or restrictions imposed due to the air traffic controllers’ strike. (See September 28, 1989.)
Sunday, March 4, 1984:FAA began a 90-day National Air Transportation Inspection (NATI) of 237 major and commuter airlines and 25 air transportation support organizations (see February 13, 1984). NATI began with “white glove” examinations to identify deficiencies that became the focus of in-depth inspections during the second phase of the program, which ran April 7-June 5. On December 12, 1984, the Department of Transportation announced that NATI had shown 95 percent of the airlines to be in compliance with safety rules. Sixteen airlines had deficiencies sufficient to warrant revocation or voluntary surrender of their certificates, suspension or curtailment of their operations, aircraft groundings, or withdrawal of pilots from service for a period of time.
In addition to NATI, FAA undertook a Safety Activity Functional Evaluation (Project SAFE), a review of the agency’s safety inspection program. During the course of SAFE, the project’s scope broadened from an initial focus on inspectors to a comprehensive review of the Flight Standards function. The findings of the review, announced on November 6, 1985, included a plan for revamping the safety inspection program. The plan, portions of which had already been implemented, included: increased standardization of inspection practices and interpretation of rules; a high-priority effort to update safety regulations; increased use of the automated Aviation Safety Analysis System (see October 26, 1982); and strong management oversight. (See June 19, 1984, and August 16, 1985.)
Tuesday, March 6, 1984:FAA published an amendment to the High Density Rule under which four of the nation’s busiest airports had long been subject to flight quotas during certain hours (see June 1, 1969). Effective April 1, the new rule increased the hours that limitations at Chicago’s O’Hare were applicable, yet increased the number of operations permitted at the airport. It also slightly increased the operations allowed at New York’s LaGuardia and Kennedy, while restrictions at Washington National remained unchanged. Hourly quotas on IFR operations were: O’Hare, 155; LaGuardia, 68; and Washington National, 60. At Kennedy, hourly quotas varied between 77 and 93. (See December 20, 1985.)
As of this date, only four of the nation’s airports remained subject to strike-related restrictions imposed under the Interim Operations Plan: O’Hare, LaGuardia, Denver’s Stapleton, and Los Angeles International. On April 1, 1984, these limitations ended at Stapleton, LaGuardia, and O’Hare, although the latter two remained subject to the High Density Rule. The nation’s last strike-related landing restrictions ended on August 26, 1984, at Los Angeles, where runway repairs and Olympic Games traffic had delayed return to normal operations.
Thursday, March 8, 1984:Several aircraft descended too low while approaching Washington National airport in snowy conditions, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Seven days later, Transportation Secretary Dole announced an acceleration of planned steps to improve the safety of the approach. Later, on April 17, Dole stated further that a new electronic landing aid would be installed in Anacostia to permit pilots to follow a bad-weather approach path that was less difficult and further from tall buildings in Rosslyn, Va. (See December 28, 1982.)
Wednesday, March 14, 1984:FAA announced the award of a contract for the Interim Voice Response System (IVRS). The system provided a computerized voice message giving weather information to pilots who called their local IVRS number on a touch-tone telephone. This was expected to reduce the time required for flight service stations to provide complete preflight weather briefings. In October 1985, FAA announced that IVRS was available to pilots in 24 cities. Meanwhile, FAA was also developing the Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS). This system allowed pilots to obtain weather information and file a domestic flight plan using computers equipped with a modem for communication via telephone lines. The agency’s Technical Center began developing DUATS in 1983, and a test of the system began at ten sites during the following year. (See February 13, 1990.)
Friday, March 30, 1984:FAA withdrew an advance notice of proposed rulemaking relating to the Age-60 rule (see March 15, 1960). The agency had issued the notice on June 23, 1982, partly in response to a recommendation made to Congress by the National Institute on Aging (see December 29, 1979). The notice solicited information on whether to establish a program to determine if persons age 60 or older could safely serve as pilots of major airplanes. It also asked for views on whether the age-60 rule should be extended to apply to flight engineers, an action advocated by United Air Lines. In withdrawing the notice, FAA noted that it agreed with experts who contended that “there are currently no methods to obtain medical and performance data on older pilots that would provide significantly meaningful data to consider relaxing the age-60 rule.” The agency also stated that there was insufficient data available to support the extension of the rule to flight engineers. (See April 8, 1993.)
March 1984:Sperry Corporation received a contract to upgrade the En Route Automated Radar Tracking System (EARTS) at the Anchorage, Honolulu, and San Juan Centers, as well as at Nellis Air Force Base (see August 4, 1980). The contractor would provide radar mosaic to allow EARTS controllers to view the best data from multiple radars on a single screen, a capability similar to that available at Centers with NAS En Route Stage A systems. In April 1985, Sperry received another contract to enhance the EARTS facilities by providing conflict alert (see January 9, 1976) and minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW) capabilities (see November 5, 1976). FAA accepted delivery of the combined conflict alert/MSAW software package in August 1987. By fiscal year 1991, all the upgraded operational EARTS had been commissioned.
Tuesday, April 10, 1984:Vice Admiral Donald D. Engen (USN, Ret.) became the ninth FAA Administrator, succeeding J. Lynn Helms (see April 22, 1981). The Senate had received the nomination on March 12 and confirmed it on April 5. Congress enacted Public Law 98-256 to exempt Engen from the statute prohibiting military officers from serving as FAA Administrator. Engen was born in 1924 in Pomona, Calif. He held a B.A. from George Washington University, and had graduated with distinction from the Naval War College. Engen began flying with the Navy during World War II and participated in the air and sea battles that accompanied the recapture of the Philippines and attacks on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and other Pacific Islands. Among his 29 wartime decorations was the Navy Cross, the Navy’s highest award for valor. After a brief return to civilian status following the war, Engen rejoined the Navy in 1946. He flew combat missions in the Korean War, became an engineering test pilot, and served in positions that included command of an aircraft carrier. He was Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet at the time of his retirement from the Navy in 1978. Engen was General Manager of the Piper Aircraft Corporation plant in Lakeland, Fla., 1978-80, and then became a Senior Associate with Kentron, a consulting firm in Alexandria, Va. He was appointed a member of the National Transportation Safety Board in June 1982, and remained in that position until joining FAA. During his military and civilian career, Engen had flown more than 220 different aircraft, including the Navy’s first jets. He served as FAA Administrator for three years and two months. (See March 18, 1987.)
Sunday, May 20, 1984:Former Federal aviation official Oscar Bakke died at age 64. Bakke joined the Civil Aeronautics Board in 1946, became Director of its Bureau of Safety in 1956, and was influential in establishing area positive control (see May 28, 1958). He transferred to FAA in 1960 as Director of the Flight Standards Service, and became Eastern Region Director the following year. Appointed Associate Administrator for Plans in 1967, he led a task force that produced recommendations that influenced subsequent legislation on airport and airway development. In 1971, Bakke went to Brussels as Assistant Administrator for the Europe, Africa, and Middle East Region. After returning to Washington, he headed an FAA panel to investigate the DC-10 crash of March 14, 1974 (see that date). Bakke retired from the agency during that same year, following the failure of plans to place him in charge of all safety programs (see June 11, 1974). He became executive director of the Newark Transportation Council and later of a charitable foundation.
Thursday, May 24, 1984:In a move intended to sharpen FAA’s focus on safety, Administrator Engen announced that the Office of Aviation Safety would now report directly to him instead of to the Associate Administrator for Aviation Standards. A directive dated August 6, 1984, formally implemented the change. (See November 26, 1991.)
Friday, June 8, 1984:Transportation Secretary Dole proposed that Washington National and Dulles International airports be transferred from the Federal government. She announced the appointment of an advisory commission to make recommendations on the establishment of a state, local, or interstate body to assume operation of the airports. On December 18, 1984, the commission recommended leasing the airports to a regional authority. On April 22, 1985, Dole submitted a bill reflecting these recommendations to Congress. (See October 30, 1986.)
Tuesday, June 19, 1984:The Supreme Court reversed an appeals court decision holding FAA liable for negligence in its certification and inspection program. The case grew out of the Varig Airlines in-flight fire (see July 11, 1973), and a 1968 fire aboard a DeHaviland Dove. The respondents charged that FAA had negligently determined that the aircraft met fire-protection standards. In deciding against the respondents, the Court ruled that “the duty to ensure that an aircraft conforms to FAA safety regulations lies with the manufacturer and operator, while FAA retains the responsibility for policing compliance.” The Court noted that the law allowing suits against the government makes an exception for such regulatory policing and other activities that involve broad exercise of administrative discretion. (See December 31, 1972.)
Tuesday, June 19, 1984:Transportation Secretary Dole announced that FAA would conduct a General Aviation Safety Audit. The inspections, which began on July 22, focused on: pilot schools, instructors, and examiners; repair stations; non-airline operators of large aircraft; older large jet aircraft scheduled to be phased out because of failure to meet the new noise standards (see December 23, 1976); and on-demand air taxis. During the program, a number of operators voluntarily surrendered their certificates. FAA submitted the results of the audit to DOT between August 1985 and February 1986. Four percent of the detailed findings prepared reported significant unsatisfactory conditions, many of which involved air taxis. As a result of the safety audit, FAA revised its guidelines to include stepped-up inspections of air taxis, repair stations, and such operators of large aircraft as travel clubs, contract cargo carriers, and corporations with executive fleets.
Wednesday, June 20, 1984:The Civil Aeronautics Board published additional rules regulating smoking on aircraft (see May 10, 1973). The provisions included a ban on smoking in air carrier aircraft with fewer than 30 passenger seats, except for on-demand air taxis, and a total ban on smoking in airliners while on the ground. After the Board ceased to exist at the end of 1984, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation administered these rules. (See August 13, 1986.)
July 1984:FAA conducted an agency-wide Employee Attitude Survey as part of a drive for improvements in employee/management relations. Some 26,000 persons responded to the questionnaire, which a Civil Aeromedical Institute research team prepared and analyzed. Preliminary results announced on November 27 showed most employees to be generally challenged by their work, satisfied by their pay and job security, but less than positive about FAA’s human relations skills and certain related issues. Four questions addressed to air traffic control personnel helped to identify groups more prone to “burnout.”
The survey became a tool to evaluate Human Resources Program steps that included: on-site reviews by Secretarial panels of management experts; Employee Involvement Groups intended to give employees a greater voice in developing policy and procedures; a new Office of Human Resource
Management, headed by an Associate Administrator reporting directly to the Administrator (see March 19, 1985); and a “hotline” linking employees with the Administrator’s staff, beginning on August 6, 1984. Measures to combat burnout included stress management counseling and a June 1984 policy to allow more air traffic controllers to achieve full performance level, thus sharing difficult work more widely among the workforce.
In a continuing effort to evaluate improvement actions, FAA conducted a follow-up survey of all employees in 1986, and followed this with Job Satisfaction Surveys administered to a randomly selected 15 percent of the workforce. The survey series revealed the following overall job satisfaction percentages: 53 (1984); 56 (1986); 67 (1988); 65 (1990); 72 (1993); and 69 (1995).
Thursday, August 23, 1984:FAA issued an advisory circular establishing an acceptable means of obtaining airworthiness approval of airborne LORAN-C equipment for use as an area navigation system under instrument flight rules (IFR) as well as visual flight rules (VFR). Derived from the LORAN (Long Range Navigation) system developed during World War II, LORAN-C used radio signals from ground transmitting stations spaced several hundred miles apart. It had been developed primarily for marine users, but in the early 1980s many general aviation pilots had begun to adopt the system for VFR navigation. (See June 2, 1986.)
Wednesday, September 12, 1984:Airline representatives reached agreement on rescheduling flights to avoid congestion during peak hours at six major airports: New York’s LaGuardia and Kennedy; Newark International; Chicago O’Hare; Atlanta Hartsfield; and Denver Stapleton. The representatives forged the agreement in eight days of intense negotiations with FAA participation and with the understanding that FAA might impose new regulations if no voluntary solution was found. The Civil Aeronautics Board granted immunity from anti-trust laws to those engaged in the talks, and later approved the agreement. Writing to the Air Transport Association on March 12, 1985, FAA Administrator Engen cited steps taken to reduce delays and indications that the airlines would not return to excess peak-time operations. Engen therefore stated that the scheduling agreement need not continue beyond April 1.
Saturday, September 15, 1984:FAA centralized responsibility for the operational control and technical direction of the air traffic control system under the Associate Administrator for Air Traffic. (On an organizational level, however, the regional air traffic division managers continued to report to the Regional Directors: see June 16, 1988.) A directive issued on February 8, 1985, reorganized the Associate Administrator’s office to include an Air Traffic Operations Service and an Air Traffic Plans and Requirements Service. On October 31, 1986, another directive also established an Air Traffic Evaluations and Analysis Office under the Associate Administrator. (See October 2, 1989.)
Wednesday, September 26, 1984:FAA announced the award of a construction contract to expand the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center, the first in a program to expand all 20 en route centers in the contiguous states. The construction would allow the facilities to accommodate more sophisticated computers and radar displays being developed under the Advanced Automation Program (see July 26, 1985). The Seattle groundbreaking ceremony took place on November 5, 1984. (See April 1987.)
Friday, September 28, 1984:A DOT Inspector General report on drug and alcohol abuse among FAA employees concluded that the problem was more widespread than management realized and recommended stronger action on the issue. In a memorandum to FAA managers at year’s end, Administrator Engen stated that he had established a policy under which employees who abused drugs or alcohol must enter a treatment program or face penalties that might include dismissal. Employees with safety-related duties would be assigned other tasks while receiving treatment. The Administrator also stated that he had taken steps to establish a substance abuse screening procedure for employees in safety-related positions. In a general notice on February 16, 1985, Engen stated that occasional incidents suggested that FAA was not totally immune to drug/alcohol abuse, and informed employees that a new policy was under development. (See August 16, 1985.)
Thursday, October 18, 1984:Vice President George Bush was involved in a near midair collision (NMAC) near Seattle when the crew of Air Force Two was forced to take evasive action due to their failure to sight an aircraft flying under visual flight rules. On September 30, 1984, Air Force Two had been involved in a less serious incident when a controller in Ohio allowed it to come too close to another aircraft. (See January 11, 1985.)
Friday, October 26, 1984:FAA published two rules to increase the survival chances of airline passengers encountering fire and smoke. Both were based on findings of the Special Aviation Fire and Explosion Reduction (SAFER) Advisory Committee (see September 10, 1980) as well as on subsequent research. One rule called for the installation, within three years, of seat cushions possessing an outer layer of highly fire-resistant material. Research showed that the cushions would provide as much as 40 additional seconds before “flashover,” the deadly ignition of accumulated vapors. The requirement applied to operators of aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or more and having over 29 seats. The second rule required emergency escape path marking at or near floor level that would provide evacuation guidance even when all sources of illumination more than four feet above the cabin aisle floor were totally obscured by smoke. With the exception of aircraft type-certificated before 1958, all airliners operated by major lines were required to have such marking within two years. (See July 21, 1986.)
October 1984:FAA awarded a contract for design of the Oceanic Display and Planning System (ODAPS) with features that would include visual displays of oceanic air traffic. ODAPS would automatically provide controllers with flight data for aircraft flying in oceanic sectors, thus eliminating time-consuming procedures involving use of flight strips and repeated voice communications. A planned second phase of the contract would include delivery of ODAPS equipment to FAA’s Technical Center and two air route traffic control centers. (See December 14, 1989.) October 5, 1984
Saturday, November 10, 1984:FAA revoked the operating certificate of Provincetown-Boston Airlines (PBA), a large commuter carrier. The revocation was probably the most publicized of numerous operational curtailments enforced by FAA during the year, many as a result of the NATI program (see March 4, 1984). Critics charged that FAA inspections had failed to uncover PBA’s violations before information from a former pilot of the airline triggered the investigation that led to the grounding. After assisting PBA to correct deficiencies, FAA on November 24, 1984, re-certificated the airline for that part of its operations involving smaller aircraft.
On December 6, 1984, the crash of a PBA Embraer Bandeirante (EMB-110) shortly after takeoff from Jacksonville killed all 13 persons aboard. On December 9, FAA issued an emergency Airworthiness Directive requiring owners to inspect key parts of certain Bandeirante models. The agency also dispatched a team to Brazil to work with authorities and the manufacturer to insure the safety of the aircraft type. On January 8, 1985, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that FAA ground many of the approximately 90 Bandeirantes in the U.S. pending further inspection and/or modification. FAA ordered the inspections, but allowed 18 hours of flying time prior to compliance. In its final report on the accident, NTSB listed the probable cause as a control system malfunction. The crew’s reaction to the problem resulted in overstress that caused failure of the horizontal stabilizer attachment structure. New incidents and allegations in late 1984 and early 1985 resulted in further FAA surveillance of PBA. By May 1985, however, the agency was ready to re-certificate the carrier for operation of its largest aircraft.
Wednesday, November 14, 1984:Effective this date, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) adopted a rule regulating air carrier-owned computer reservations systems (CRSs), which set forth requirements designed to prevent unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices among the airlines who controlled those systems. CAB mandated a future review of this regulation, and on September 16, 1992, DOT announced a final rule on CRS, which strengthened and extended the existing regulations through 1997. Among other things, the revised rule prohibited a vendor from requiring its subscribers to make a specified minimum number of bookings; reduced the maximum subscriber contract term from five to three years; and readopted the existing requirements that information be organized in an objective and unbiased manner, and that participation in a CRS be open to all carriers on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Saturday, December 1, 1984:FAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration conducted a Controlled Impact Demonstration (CID) in which a Boeing 720 was remotely piloted to a prepared crash site at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The aircraft carried instrumented test dummies, high-speed cameras, and more than 350 sensors to transmit data to ground recorders. The project involved numerous experiments on the crash behavior of the aircraft’s structure and of internal features such as seats, seat belts and harnesses, storage compartments, and galleys. Among the other items tested were fire-blocking seat cushion layers, fire-resistant windows, cockpit voice recorders, and flight data recorders. Most importantly, the aircraft’s tanks carried anti-misting kerosene (AMK), an experimental fuel designed to prevent or minimize the fireball that may result when spillage from a ruptured tank forms a volatile mist and ignites. Devices known as degraders converted the AMK back to normal kerosene before it entered the engines. Preparations at the impact site included eight steel wing cutters installed to ensure that fuel would spill from the tanks. Touching down 300 feet short of the cutters with its left wing low, the aircraft slid forward at an angle so that the first cutter slashed into the right inboard engine before ripping open the wing tank. In consequence, the spill began with non-AMK fuel from the engine, which ignited instantly and touched off the AMK fuel gushing from the tank. A spectacular fireball resulted. The use of AMK reduced the heat of the fire, and an estimated 20 percent of the passengers would probably have escaped had the aircraft contained real occupants. The AMK test was disappointing, however, and in Sept 1985 the FAA announced that it had dropped plans to require airline use of the special fuel. Despite this, other experiments conducted as part of the CID produced a wealth of useful information.
Tuesday, December 4, 1984:Four Arab hijackers diverted a Kuwait Air A-310 to Iran, where they murdered two American passengers and committed other brutalities while demanding the release of prisoners held in Kuwait. The hijackers released 153 of their hostages in several groups, and Iranian forces freed the remainder when they stormed the aircraft on December 9. The hijacking was part of an increase in terrorist seizures of foreign airliners that began in June 1984.
Tuesday, December 11, 1984:FAA grounded about 180 Sikorsky S-76A helicopters pending installation of a replacement part being developed by the engine builder, a division of General Motors. The action followed an October 31 accident in the South China Sea.
Thursday, December 13, 1984:Richard H. Jones became Deputy Administrator of FAA, succeeding Michael J. Fenello (see August 1, 1981). A native of Portsmouth, Va., Jones served as a Marine Corps pilot during 1953-57, received his B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1958, and began flying for Eastern Air Lines in 1959. He served a second tour with the Marines, 1960-1966, leaving active duty as a reserve Lieutenant Colonel. Jones then returned to Eastern, becoming a captain in 1967 and continuing in this capacity until joining FAA. He also practiced law with the firm of Lewis, Wilson, Lewis & Jones, having received an L.L.B. from American University in 1964. Jones was Secretary and Treasurer of the Airline Pilots Association, International, 1969-70, and ran unsuccessfully for president of the union in 1970. He was Chairman of the Washington-based Eastern Air Lines Pilots Association, 1970-72, and served on numerous other groups and committees devoted to legal and aviation issues. On June 4, 1986, Jones announced his resignation from FAA, effective July 15, 1986, to return to the private sector. (See April 1, 1988.)
Monday, December 31, 1984:In accordance with the Airline Deregulation Act (see October 24, 1978), the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) ceased to exist at the end of this day, having operated for 44 years and 7 months. Originally entrusted with airline economic regulation, accident investigation, and safety rulemaking, CAB lost the latter responsibility with the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. The Department of Transportation Act of 1966 later deprived the Board of its accident investigation role, leaving economic regulation as its principal mission. After 1984, the Department of Transportation (DOT) assumed those CAB duties that had not been abolished by deregulation. Functions assigned to elements of the Office of the Secretary of Transportation included: international aviation responsibilities such as bilateral treaty negotiation, carrier selection, and tariff filing and review; the Essential Air Service Program, which protected service to small communities; consumer protection for airline passengers; antitrust review and immunity authority; and certification of the economic fitness of carriers. DOT’s Research and Special Projects Administration assumed responsibility for collection and dissemination of air carrier economic data.
Primary Sources:
Dated items along the left margin of the FAA History Pages were compiled from the series of FAA’s ‘Historical Chronology’ PDF files. For a list and links to uploaded copies of these PDF files, see aiReform’s ‘FAA History’ main page (link above).
Additional content has been compiled from Wikipedia and other sources; these items are presented along the right margin, and include significant accidents, Whistleblower case actions, various news items, ATC technology developments, links to related material, comments, etc. Further content will be added at a later date.